Only five years ago, the kingdom of Ancalia was a beacon of peaceful prosperity. Under the wise rule of High Negus Arad, the Elect of God, Ancalia was a green land of thriving cities, rich fields, and a people grateful to the One for their good fortune. Such peace perhaps brought quarrels between the hereditary jantirar lords of the countryside and the royally-appointed kantibas of the cities and major towns, but the roaming justiciars of the seven great knightly orders were swift to resolve such difficulties with their wisdom and their blades.
This all ended five summers ago. Through some unfathomable collapse of the celestial engines, nine dire Night Roads erupted throughout the country. Hordes of misbegotten Uncreated poured into Ancalia and the Hollowing Plague raised every corpse as a ravening husk. Some cities were slaughtered within days, while others had time to evacuate as the knightly orders contained the outpouring long enough for their countrymen to escape. The loss of life was horrific and the ancient orders were all but destroyed by their sacrifice.
The surviving people of Ancalia have retreated to coastal enclaves and a few isolated inland refuges where the abominations cannot easily pry them out. Many have sought to flee Ancalia entirely, but their neighbors do not welcome them. People say that the High Negus must have been meddling with some forbidden theurgy or dangerous relic in order to have brought such a catastrophe on his people. The common folk fear that the Ancalians will bring this disaster with them, while the wise can hardly bring themselves to consider that such a monstrous downfall might randomly strike their nations as well.
For now, the surviving men and women of Ancalia shelter under the hand of countless petty warlords, surviving officials, and daring freebooters. Some of these lords are selfless defenders of the common people. Far more are desperate men and women willing to do anything to buy another month’s life for their community, whatever the cost to others. Some are nothing more than bandit kings, plundering other survivors for what they want or need. All fear the ruined cities of Ancalia and the creatures that still lair within them, but sometimes need for the goods within outweighs mortal terror.
The famous knights of Ancalia are almost extinct, but a few wandering blades still haunt the land. Most of these survivors hew to the ancient codes of their orders, to the principles of courage, honor, piety, and devotion to justice. Beyond these principles, each order devoted itself to a different set of virtues, whether the healer’s mercy of the Surcessant Order or the unflinching defense of the common folk cherished by the Pavians. Every ordained knight still has the theoretical right of judgment on anyone inferior to the royal family, but exerting this authority is a difficult matter in these bitter days.
Ancalians are a dark people, of the same Akeh stock as the Patrians and the ancestors of the Vissians. Once a peaceful folk given to fine architecture, sober learning, and devout worship of the One, these latter years have killed most of them who were not capable of hard deeds to preserve their own lives. Many still struggle to maintain the reasoned, orderly society they once had, but the dire peril of the wilderness and the dearth in their homes sometimes force grim acts.